Rachel Getting Married (2008, Jonathan Demme)

Movie took some adjusting. Firstly I’d heard this was a marvelous best-of-year movie, so when I saw the shaky-cam cinematography I thought “seriously?”. Then I’d been selling it to Katy as romantic comedy, and it turned out very dramatic, not so funny or romantic. But once I straightened out that I was watching a shaky-cam unromantic drama I’d say it was a very good one of those.

Kim (Anne Brokeback Hathaway) gets a weekend leave from rehab for the wedding of sister Rachel (Rosemarie Dewitt) and beau Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe). While out, she raises all sorts of hell with her sister, mother (Debra Winger of early-80’s prestige pics) and father (Bill “Mr. Noodle” Irwin). Comes out that Kim killed their little brother in a drug-binge car accident, and now that she’s sober for the first time in a decade, they can talk to her about it. Wedding goes off, party is much fun, Kim returns to rehab.

Acting (especially by Hathaway and Irwin) is very good, and Kim’s character is strong – one of those deep writer/director/actor character-study things like Happy-Go-Lucky, I’d suppose. The family thing is strong overall, but groom Tunde Adebimpe, having just blown me away at a TV On The Radio concert a week earlier, didn’t do hardly anything in this movie. He came to life during what is probably the longest dishwasher-stacking scene in cinema history, but otherwise he was background, and his family existed as a friendly mass of people, not as a bunch of distinguishable individuals. Not a single scrap of racial-relations dialogue. Critics are chalking that up to unrealistic liberalism on Demme’s part, but apparently it’s because the groom was gonna be a white actor so there was no race in the script, heh.

Written by the granddaughter of the good witch in The Wiz. First fiction feature I’ve seen from Demme in 15 years (Philadelphia), wow. Robyn Hitchcock got a song and a half, including some close-up shots, nice, and Tunde sang Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” acapella at the ceremony, also nice.

Them (2006, David Moreau & Xavier Palud)

This year, directors Dave & Xave helmed the Jessica Alba remake of The Eye, so it’s only fitting that a few months later their own movie got a Hollywood remake starring Liv Tyler. The Strangers also reportedly contains traces of Funny Games, a movie that remade itself, so it’s best to stay away from that whole mess.

Bound by love… separated by chainlink fence
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Producer Richard Grandpierre (Brotherhood of the Wolf) thinks he’s quite important, pastes his name all over the credits. Movie spends a lot of time setting up that its loving French couple (who have just moved to rural Romania) love each other. They are a teacher (Olivia Bonamy of La Captive) and a writer (Michael Cohen of Lelouch’s Les Mis) and they love each other. They feed the dog. They watch TV. Then, a half-hour in, their car disappears and people come in the middle of the night terrorizing them in their house. A couple of these “strangers” get hurt, possibly killed, but finally our loving couple is lost in the woods, led into the sewers, and wiped out by… children! Twist, they are children!

OMG they are children!
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Everything is handheld shaky-cam, of course, to give us the proper sense of intimate urgency a la Blair Witch. The dude is pretty ineffectual, hurting himself early on, but the girl is our pseudo-survivor character, all tough and good-looking under pressure. Character/story-wise I preferred American horror The Descent, which this occasionally reminded me of, but Them def. had me jumping in the dark. Manages to sustain its suspense much better than most movies of this type, so even though nothing of interest is ever happening, it’s tense as all hell (and with good sound/effects). Guess that’s all you can ask.

Soon as she started crawling through a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end and I saw the distance was out-of-focus, I knew this would happen.
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“Dario? Mr. Argento? Is anyone there?”
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